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BBB warns consumers to be cautious buying pets online this holiday season

Crystal Graham
puppy laying on ground
(© themost – stock.adobe.com)

Consumers looking to add a puppy to their home may fall prey to popular puppy scams, the Better Business Bureau warns.

The BBB urges consumers to exercise caution this holiday season when purchasing a pet online.

Pet scams historically make up a quarter of all online shopping frauds reported to BBB and are on track to be about 18 percent of cases reported this year. Consumer losses this year are expected to exceed $2 million.

Yorkies, Dachshunds and French Bulldogs make up nearly 30 percent of all puppy scams, according to 2022 BBB Scam Tracker reports. Consumers mentioned more than 40 breeds, however, meaning that buyers should be cautious when shopping for any breed online.

Puppy scammers lure people in with fake websites, promises of cute puppies, then ask for money multiple times – for deposit, shipping or special crates.

Consumers tell the BBB it is easy to be swept up in the emotions of the moment when buying a pet and push forward despite reservations.

BBB Scam Tracker reports show that those who tried to purchase pets without seeing them in person, use hard-to-track payment methods like payment apps, and accept extra charges like shipping insurance or special cages are at an increased risk of being scammed.

In another twist to the scam, when a buyer finally settles on a dog and attempts to pay, scammers claim the credit card was declined or is not working. In reality, scammers have stolen that information to use later. Scammers then ask the shopper to pay using Zelle or gift cards, which are often harder to track and not as secure.

Many bogus puppy websites, often registered outside of North America, appear and vanish quickly, hampering law enforcement efforts. Prosecutions in puppy scam cases are tough to crack, as perpetrators are often outside of the country.

BBB tips for researching puppy sellers

  • See pets in-person before paying any money
  • Try to set up a video call to view the animal
  • Conduct a reverse image search on photos attached to ads
  • Research the breed to figure out the average market price
  • Check out a local animal shelter for pets to meet in person

If you have fallen victim to a puppy scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker

BBB report: Beware of puppy, kitten, shopping scams online

Online puppy scams more than double in 2020, BBB warns

Better Business Bureau: Puppy scams prevalent during COVID-19 lockdowns

Consumer alert: Purebred puppy scam

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.